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Elliot Aronson
Born January 9, 1932 (1932-01-09) (age 78)
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Social Psychology
Institutions Harvard University
University of Minnesota
University of Texas
University of California, Santa Cruz
Alma mater Brandeis University
Wesleyan University
Stanford University
Doctoral advisor Leon Festinger
Known for Jigsaw (teaching technique)
Influences Leon Festinger
Notable awards APS William James Award

Elliot Aronson (born January 1932) is listed among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th Century, best known for his Jigsaw Classroom experiments, cognitive dissonance research, and bestselling Social Psychology textbooks. He is the only person in the 120-year history of the American Psychological Association to have won all three of its major awards: For distinguished writing (1973), for distinguished teaching (1980), and for distinguished research (1999). In 2007 he received the William James Award for Distinguished Research from the Association for Psychological Science.[1]


Early life and education

Aronson grew up during the Great Depression in the town of Revere, Massachusetts, where he, as a young Jewish boy, was forced on many occasions to defend himself from physical assaults by antisemitic bullies.[2] He earned his Bachelor's degree from Brandeis University in 1954 (where he worked with Abraham Maslow), his Master's degree from Wesleyan University in 1956 (where he worked with David McClelland), and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Stanford University in 1959. His doctoral advisor and mentor was Leon Festinger.

Professional history

Aronson has taught at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is also Visiting Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. He is the recipient of many honors. He was chosen by his peers as one of the 100 most influential psychologists of the 20th century, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and won the prestigious William James Award from the Association for Psychological Science for his lifetime achievements. He has won distinguished research awards from a variety of professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Experimental Social Psychologists, and others. He also won the Gordon Allport Prize for his work on reducing prejudice. In 1982 he was named "Professor of the Year" by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Research topics

One of Aronson's key areas of interest and research has been the theory of cognitive dissonance. Aronson is credited with refining the theory, which posits that when attitudes and behaviors are inconsistent with one another that psychological discomfort results. This discomfort motivates the person experiencing it to either change their behavior or attitude so that consonance is restored. He conducted a controlled experiment showing that people who underwent a tougher initiation have more favorable evaluations of the group they have joined.[3]

Aronson is also famous for the Jigsaw Classroom experiment conducted in 1971. The experiment was aimed at identifying methods of reducing prejudice in the newly desegregated Austin school system. Classrooms using traditional individual competitive learning techniques were compared to those requiring cooperative learning in race-integrated groups. The cooperative learning groups were referred to as Jigsaw Groups and required that students rely on one another to succeed on exams. The results showed that compared to traditional classrooms, Jigsaw classroom students had significantly lower levels of prejudicial attitudes and negative stereotyping. Group participants demonstrated higher self-confidence, lower absenteeism, and higher academic achievement than students in the competitive (traditionally taught) classrooms.


Aronson has authored some twenty-three books including the influential textbook The Social Animal (ISBN 0-7167-5715-X), (currently in its tenth edition), "Nobody Left to Hate," and "Age of Propaganda." Most recently, he wrote a popular trade book (with Carol Tavris), Mistakes were made (but not by ME): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts (ISBN 978-0-15-101098-1). He also co-edited the second and third editions of the monumental "Handbook of Social Psychology" (with Gardner Lindzey).

See also


  1. ^ William James Fellow Award - Elliot Aronson (Association for Psychological Science) Accessed 2009-07-19
  2. ^ "Elliot Aronson: The Intersection of Art and Science", APS Observer, September 2007, Vol. 20, No. 8
  3. ^ NPR: Why It's Hard to Admit to Being Wrong

External links



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